Glossary of Terms to Promote a Common Language


wait time:
Wait time is the period that elapses between the moment a teacher asks a question or elicits a response from a class or group of students and the first answer given by a student. The term emerged from research done in science education by Mary Budd Rowe. Rowe documented that the average wait time between teacher questions and student response is actually very short, often less than a second is. This research lent support to psychologist Jerome Kagan's conclusion that teachers often reward and support impulsively rather than the reflective thought they imagine they encourage.

Waldorf Schools:
Also called Steiner schools,after Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925), their founder. In 1919, Steiner, the editor of the philosopher Goethe's scientific writings, was asked to found a school for the children of workers in the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Factory in Stuttgart, Germany. He began with particular attention to the architecture of the school, making it pleasant,functional, and supportive of children's exploratory learning. His philosophy of education, which seems to be gaining renewed popularity today, emphasizes faculty autonomy and decision-making, active student learning, and emphasis on the student's whole person. Waldorf schools are independent, nonsectarian, and, typically, small. The schools accommodate students from kindergarten through high school, with the curriculum unfolding in spiral fashion where ideas are visited and revisited over the years. Large blocks of time are given to students to pursue ideas in depth with considerable emphasis being given to the arts and sciences.

Webbing, a metaphor based on a spider's web, is a technique employed in interdisciplinary teaching and learning. A web is a graphic way of identifying key ideas and connecting them to other key ideas, using major and minor categories. Webbings often begin in brainstorming sessions where students suggest possible avenues of exploration and topics connected to an organizing theme. Thus, if the organizing theme were "energy," then among the obvious connections might be "solar,""atomic," etc.

A method to combine the results of two or more assessments for a learning outcome. If some assessments are deemed more important, the cut-scores on those assessments may be given greater consideration or weight in determining the overall performance level.

whole class instruction:
Whole class instruction refers to the practice of teaching the same material simultaneously to an entire class. Whole class instruction generally implies the same or similar assignments to all students and an expectation that all students will be evaluated using the same assessment technique. Whole class instruction is typically associated with direction instruction.

whole language:
Whole language is a philosophy of how literacy best develops in learners. In practice, whole language approaches have taken a variety of forms but with many common elements.It is a perspective on language and learning founded primarily on the use of literature programs, big books, predictable books, discussion groups, authentic stories rather than basal readers, acceptance of developmental spelling, and an emphasis on the writing process. Rooted in Constructivist learning theory, meaning centered learning is a central tenet. Since language is the root of much of our learning,integration is seen as an important concept, with language experiences provided in all aspects of the curriculum. Natural learning situations and whole-to-part learning are also important whole language concepts. In a whole language environment, the student is encouraged to learn to read and write much as he/she learned to speak, naturally.

whole-school change:
Whole-school change can occur when a critical mass of personnel in the school are engaged in reflective practice intended to improve teacher practice and student learning. The school community is engaged in modifying the organization,structure, and culture of the school in order to support the improvements. Whole-school change cuts across classrooms, grade levels,and departments.

whole-to-part learning (also see part-to-whole learning):
Whole-to-part learning is an approach to learning, which is said to appeal to field dependent/global learning styles. It is integral to whole language philosophy. In whole-to-part learning, instruction begins with the "big picture," or in a natural setting. As the opportunity and need arises in a particular setting and when they become meaningful, students are helped to learn individual skills or content. An example of whole-to-part learning is asking students to write a story about something meaningful in their lives or within their realm of experiences. As students reread drafts of their stories, and as the needs arise, the stories are edited and the various rules of grammar taught and used in a meaningful way-the inverse of part-to-whole language.

word attack:
An aspect of reading instruction that includes intentional strategies for learning to decode, sight read, and recognize written words.

word concept maps:
Graphic organizers for vocabulary development of nouns, verbs and adjectives. They are used to help students organize and clarify their understanding of a particular word. Examples and synonyms of the word are elicited from the students and charted on the concept map.

word decoding:
An aspect of reading that involves deriving a pronunciation for a printed sequence of letters based on knowledge of spelling-sound correspondences.

word recognition:
The ability to read the most frequently occurring words found in basic reading texts. These words have been decoded and their meaning internalized.

word retrieval deficit:
A term used to describe difficulty in thinking of familiar words automatically and efficiently.

word wall:
A systematically organized collection of words displayed in large letters on a wall or other display areas in a classroom which; (a) supports the teaching of important general principles about words and how they work; (b) fosters reading and writing; (c) provides reference support for children during their writing and reading; (d) promotes independence on the part of young students as they work with words in writing and reading; and (e)provides a visual map to help children remember the connections between words and the characteristics that will help them form categories. (Word Matters, Fountas and Pinnell, p. 43)

work-based learning:
Work-based learning experiences are activities at the high school level that involve actual work experience or connect classroom learning to work. The least intensive level of exposure to work-based learning might occur in traditional work experience and vocational programs (including cooperative education,distributive education, or vocational courses) that do not offer work site experience. The next level of exposure may entail the integration of academic and vocational/occupational curricula, but would not include work site experience. At the highest level, there is full integration of academic and vocational/occupational curriculum with work site experience. (See School-To-Work)

work habits:
A Coalition of Essential Schools summary term for various dispositions important for effective thinking and learning. Included are such things as: reading with curiosity; reflecting critically on one's own work; developing independence, clarity, and incisiveness of thought; willingness to work hard; an ability to manage time effectively;persistence; accuracy and precision; and working collaboratively.

writing process:
A non-linear process that includes: prewriting, drafting, conferencing, revising, editing, and publishing.

writing the room:
An activity designed to support a young child's learning to read and write. The activity involved purposeful writing of words that are displayed in the classroom. (See Reading The Room)

writing vocabulary:
An assessment that measures the number of known words a child can correctly write from memory.

writing workshop:
Students engage in writing a variety of self-selected topics using a writing process. Teacher guides the process and provides instruction through mini lessons and conferences.The teacher may work with the whole class or a small group to provide general guidance and mini-lessons on independent writing and sharing.

year-round schools:
Year-round schools involve there constitution of the school calendar to distribute school time over the whole year, eliminating the traditional summer vacation and substituting shorter vacations.

Zone of Proximal Development, (also see Cognitive Development):
The zone of proximal development is the stage at which a learner can master new material or some task if given proper support, generally in the form of instruction. The idea of the zone of proximal development, which in a practical sense is teaching someone something at a level just beyond what he/she could master without help, is an idea put forth by Russian psychologist, Lev Vygotsky. According to Vygotsky, there are certain tasks, problems,etc., that a learner is on the verge of being able to master. They are just beyond his/her independent ability to grasp. A teacher is able to provide the necessary structure for the learner to move into the zone by giving prompts, clues, reminders, or by showing steps. Thus, in classroom settings the implication is clear: students should be placed in situations where they must reach cognitively in order to understand,but where instruction from a teacher or more advanced peer is available.

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